Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Survival – and the Rules of 3

I have a request from Ms. Huxley that the next blog topic post be:

Just the Basics – What’s in by “Boogie Bag”?

As I started to work on that post two things became apparent. It’s been a bit since I have updated my gear list – and I want to include a link to that in the post. And second – why the heck do I need to “boogie” anyway. That is the purpose of this post – to put some context on when it’s time to get out of dodge and to provide a basis for a person to evaluate their own “Boggie Bag”. (Yes, I know that the current name is “Bail Out Bag – BOB”, but you’ll kindly remember that I’m a Crotchety Old Guy and I’ve been calling it a “Boogie Bag” for 20+ years, deal with it!)

The general ground rules for an individual’s survival can be summed up in the “Rules of 3”:

Three Minutes without AIR.
Three Hours without SHELTER.
Three Days without WATER.
Three Weeks without FOOD.

Three Minutes

At the most basic level, there is just plain survival – the willingness and intention to keep breathing for the next second, 30 seconds, minute, 3 minutes – it determines the continuation of your very existence. These are the moments when training, habit, conditioning (mental more so than physical) are the only things that will save you. Your canoe flips, you’re trapped under water, pined under a fallen tree – three minutes is your remaining lifespan without air. Are you prepared? You awaken to a smoke-filled room in a hotel on vacation. You find a single clean breath of air before you begin your exit – three minutes to remember how to get out and to exit the building. Your snowmobile and you have been buried in an avalanche. Snow crushes your lungs and fills your helmet and face mask. Three minutes remain until your world ends. You cross an alley at night – and an attacker crashes into you and begins to beat you with a pipe. You have entered the “3 rounds, 3 feet, 3 seconds” arena. Are you prepared to defend yourself?

Survive the first 3 minutes and you have all the time in the world to live. This is when most people die, consumed by fear – paralyzed, uncertain, and unprepared. The first 3 minutes is why you do all the basics – carry a knife in a known location, carry your weapon in the same spot every day, know your route, check fire escape routes, know what floor you’re on, wear a locater, practice close encounter shooting drills. It’s why you spend time in the wilderness, time on the range, check the back of the hotel room door for your escape route. It’s why you integrate these things into your daily life.

Three Hours

You have survived the initial hurdle, the first 3 minutes. You’ve been granted a reprieve – time to gather yourself and focus. Now, before you freeze to death, slip into hypothermia, dehydrate, enter heat exhaustion on your way to heat stroke – you have time to protect yourself, to build an appropriate shelter that will take you to the next level of survival. Have you taken the time to learn these skills? Can you remain calm, focused, intent on survival long enough to gather basic materials to construct a shelter or to search for a natural shelter? Once there, do you have the means to start a fire if it’s cold? (My standard question at this point is: “Do you have three ways to start a fire in your pocket?”) Can you find enough shade to fend off heat exhaustion or heat stroke? Have you practiced this skill set? While 3 hours seems like a lifetime compared to 3 minutes, it is indeed your remaining lifetime unless you can find shelter, get warm or cool and then collect yourself to pass this hurdle and give yourself a real shot at getting out of the situation you are in.

Three Days 

Your body can survive around three days without water. Water is the liquid that allows a body to work. It lets nerves fire, brains evaluate, muscles work and your body cool. In fact it is this last item that contributes in no small amount to how quickly this valuable resource leaves your body.

Dehydration creeps upon a body slowly but relentlessly. A number of years ago I was on a pack trip walking along a nearly dry stream. We were over 9,000 feet and had been hiking since early dawn with packs freshly topped off with 4-days of supplies – total weight around 65 pounds or so. It was July, northern New Mexico and hot. There was no breeze to be had. And suddenly – I was done. Flat out of gas. I’d been drinking steadily draining 3 Nalgenes throughout the morning. It took nearly half an hour and an additional Nalgene to recharge and finish this leg of the trek. This was a trivial event in the scheme of things, yet a solid reminder that water is life and life can be very short in deed.
Two stories – one famous, one not.

Aron Ralston was on a solo trek in Blue John Canyon, Utah. He told no one where he was going, when he’d be back or what his route was. Suddenly, a bolder shifts and crushes his forearm between the bolder and the canyon wall. He was trapped with no possible way of rescue. The book is “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”. His final means of self rescue – he cut off his own arm and hiked onward until he found assistance. You know about this self-rescue because, within the first three days before dehydration incapacitated him, Aron performed a very radical form of self rescue.
He survived.

Our second story did not have a happy ending. Mike Turner was 4 days into a 9 day hike. While walking over a field of large boulders, one shifted, crushing his leg and pinning him within sight, sound and smell of water. We know about Mike’s final days because his journal recounts his end.
Three days grace without water is our usual limit. Have a plan, practice, learn your wilderness skills because nature is just that – nature. It cares little for human error or misfortune.

Three Weeks

Rescue has not been quick. You have survived the opening moments of your challenge, found appropriate shelter and remained hydrated. You mind is still working, you skills have been up to the task. And, yet, here you are – no rescue in sight. You have 3 weeks before your body consumes itself – moves from short terms stores to body fat and finally muscle. The images of the holocaust survivors in concentration camps are an easy reference – yet how many can relate to such horror. For most, death by starvation is stealthier.

Take for example, the story of Chrostopher McCandless. Here was an inexperienced adventurer, looking to the wildness of Alaska to fill the void in his soul. He found shelter in the form of a bus. Water was plentiful. He had a .22 rifle to hunt small game – only to discover that this balance of food intake to expenditure of work was wildly out of balance. By the time he made a decision to leave and return to Anchorage it was too late, he simply did not have enough reserves to walk out. His journal recounts his final days as does the movie “Into the Wild”.

So what does all of this have to do with a “Boogie Bag”? This is survival at the most base level.
These are the hurdles that must be survived or you will simply be a statistic, a victim, a hapless soul that didn’t make it. When you assemble your “Boggie Bag”, tuck it in your car, closet or backroom ready to grab and go make sure it covers everything you can think of to survive for that first 72 hours. Honestly, it takes little more that dehydrated food pouches to extend that to a week with little additional weight. At that instant your gear, your training and your mindset will determine your final fate – life or death.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pistol, Handgun, Firearm or Weapon – what the heck is it???

My first exposure to handguns was with Uncle Ted and “the 22”. “The 22” was a late 1940’s Colt Woodsman. Our target was usually an array of tin cans in the sandy soil that surrounded his hand-made log cabin on a small lake in Michigan. There was little talk of safety and handling of “the 22”, yet his manor, respect and purpose in his handling of it loudly said that respect was due “the 22” and if it didn’t receive it, my shooting days would be over. I would guess my age to be twelve-ish at the time. Now, 50 years later, “the .22” has found a revered space in my safe and it reminds me of a man I loved and a skill he shared with me.

My father died when I was quite young, so I credit my mom with my first exposure to the world of the shotgun through an old bolt-action 410. She would hurry home from work in late fall in Michigan, we would drive to a 20 acre woodlot we owned and get in an hour or so of rabbit and squirrel hunting before dark. In preparation for pheasant season my mom acted as the thrower - pitching pop cans down range to teach me whatever she thought she was teaching me. Looking back, it is as funny to me as it seems to be to read off the screen, yet it was done in love – she was determined the loss of my father would not interfere with my being exposed to hunting.

Years moved on and 6-months after Tet I enlisted in the Air Force, July 1968. With the primary destination for many members of all branches of the services being Vietnam, all troops, regardless of their designated military skill, received some level of weapons training. And, for me, there is was – the conversion was made from “the 22” or “the 410” to “your weapon”. And thus it has remained for me – a pistol, handgun, firearm – are condensed to “a weapon”, and all that implies.

What does the word “weapon” actually mean? Webster’s on-line defines it as:

1: something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy

2: a means of contending against another

This definition certainly fit the new skill set I was learning on the weapons range – I was learning to kill people. I’m not sure that is anything that actually can be taught. You can be de-sensitized to your resistance to pressing the trigger, your mind can be tricked into seeing a silhouette as a human and being conditioned to engage this threat. And yet, at that final moment, everyone has to learn that final lesson on their own. For the soldier – hesitation is death. For the civilian confronting the armed intruder – hesitation is death. Whether pistol, handgun or firearm – what you have in your hand in those instances are weapons. Your knowledge, skill and willingness to employ them in your own defense determine whether you meet the next sunrise with your family or with your Maker – the choice is yours.

So where does this bring us in looking at today’s training culture. There seems to be two general training communities – the NRA Community, and everyone else. Let me start with some thoughts on the NRA Community.

I am a member of this community. It is strictly oriented towards the civilian side of our society. From the “Eddie Eagle” to “Firearms Safety in the Home” to “Personal Protection Outside of the Home” the market and the audience are strictly civilian in nature. During training classes with Training Counselors to gain certification for various courses, one of the things stressed is the elimination of the word “weapon” from the trainer’s vocabulary. I understand the PC nature of this change – heaven knows our rights to bear arms is hammered enough without the NRA providing “weapons” training, so I get it. And I fully implement their desires when I teach their courses. In most settings, I suspect this insistence on PC vocabulary has little detrimental effect. Basic handgun, rifle and shotgun courses work fine either way as do all the firearm safety courses. My only resistance is when we switch to the Personal Protection courses; I believe these would benefit from a change in emphasis with the use of the word weapon rather than firearm. I say this with the full knowledge this will never happen, nor do I intend to push the issue with the NRA.

“Geezz Bill – you’re really being picky, it’s just a word for Pete’s sake!!!”

OK, so let’s look at the other training community – those that are dedicated to building your skills in using your weapon to defend yourself, your family and your friends. One of my future posts will be on “Warrior Mindset” – that state of mind where you are willing to engage a threat and damage that threat up to and including killing that threat to defend yourself. As I stated early, this is an unnatural thing for a human to do. Contrary to the MSM, those of us who carry weapons, those of us who have engaged in combat do not do so out of blood-lust, but out of necessity. If you would interview soldiers, police officer or individuals who carry – not a single one would have any problem going their entire lives without bringing their weapon to bear on another human being.

When I teach my Defensive Pistol classes, it is my clear intention to make sure the folks know they are stepping into a new world of responsibility and duty. They have chosen to become responsible for their own defense, to be responsible to protect their families and friends. The have realized that at 2AM as intruders crash through their doors that the police will be minutes late to protect them. That when they grab their weapon, maintain a firm grip, focus on the front sight, put in on the center mass of the intruder and press the trigger two to three times, they are using a WEAPON to defend themselves and their families and that tremendous physical damage will be done to the intruder.

In today’s litigious society I do not want my students to ever doubt what they are doing in their training or what kind of skill set they are learning – and neither should you. You are learning to use a weapon capable of deadly force that you are willing to employ if you, your family or friends are placed in mortal danger.

A lot of words to say: it’s a damn weapon – don’t beat round the bush. Accept it, embrace it, learn it – and pray with all your heart you never have to use it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blog Posts to Write

I have built a list of titles I intend to blog about. These are things that I usually cover in our classes or have folks ask me about. They will probably appear in no specific order, I will just see what strikes my fancy and work my way through them.

So, I thought before I roll down the list, is there any particular topic that you would like to see first? Drop a comment and let me know.

Just a quick “Thanks”

I noticed I have picked up some followers – welcome!  Thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit.  I am going to try and keep this site in the “training” venue and try not to get all caught up in commentary of current events and such.  Unfortunately I have a big mouth and usually don’t hesitate to spout off – so it may be an on-going struggle to keep focused.
Regardless, welcome, come back often and feel free to bring a friend!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

So you want to buy a gun . . . now what?

You have reached a decision, you want to buy a hand gun. There are many reasons to purchase a gun; target shooting, plinking, hunting, competitive shooting or, perhaps it’s for personal defense.

Since personal defense is the focus of much of my course work; that is where I am going to focus my attention. And, since many of the folks I train are first-time gun owners, that is who I am going to focus on.

So, you are about to purchase your first hand gun and your purpose is for personal defense . . . now what?

How much gun do you need?? The movies have taught us that deadly encounters resulting in gunfights that last for 10s of minutes and require multiple reloads, all while winding through a house or forest or parking garage. Reality is somewhat different. Most gunfights take place within 21 feet. The majority of those follow the “rule of three” – 3 seconds, 3 rounds, 3 feet.

These facts move our selection of a personal defense weapon to something that is easily drawn, reliable, simple to use and with enough stopping power to put your threat down quickly.

The decision lies between a double action revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s chat about double action revolvers first.

Double Action Revolvers

With a double action revolver, the trigger performs three tasks; rotating the cylinder, cocking the hammer and finally releasing the hammer to discharge your weapon. Most hold six rounds – double the amount required for the “rule of three”.

Operation is very simple - point and pull the trigger. If it doesn’t go “bang”, pull the trigger again. Repeat until the threat is down or your weapon is empty. Time on the range practicing shooting drills will insure the former happens first.

This ease of use is what makes the double action revolver a natural selection for a first-time gun owner. Whether you are a man or woman, the primary concern if you are called upon to use your weapon is to be able to easily get “rounds on target” and a revolver makes this as simple as possible. For women, there is an added advantage that you don’t need to work any other parts of your weapon other than the trigger. There is no slide to rack, no magazine to insert, no hammer to pull back – just point and pull the trigger.

clip_image002My favorite revolver is the Ruger LCR. This family of Light Compact Revolvers provides a selection of .38 Special and .357 Magnum weapons that are small, light and easily concealed. They also have the added advantage of an internal hammer to reduce the possibility of the weapon catching on something while you are drawing it. For a first-time shooter, I recommend this double-action revolver over all others on the market today.

Semi-Automatic Pistol (SAP)

Your other choice is the semi-automatic pistol. Weapon selection here revolves much more around size, weight, caliber and capacity. In keeping with the “rule of three”, any semi-automatic pistol. that provides at least six rounds, is more than capable of filling a personal defensive purpose. However, due to a higher possibility of malfunction with the semi-automatic pistol, a second magazine is a must, allowing you to quickly eject a malfunctioning magazine and replace it with a new one.

The most popular caliber for a semi-automatic pistol is 9 mm. While this may be a bit light, proper ammunition selection (we’ll talk about that in a bit) can overcome this caliber’s shortcomings in the “knockdown power” area.

The biggest difference in operation between the double-action revolver and the semi-automatic pistol is the use of an ejectable magazine in the SAP and a more involved clearing process in the event of a malfunction. While you need simply keep pulling the trigger with a double-action revolver, a SAP required the learning and “muscle memorization” of the standard “slap, rack and shoot” clearing process. While not difficult, the time required to perform this process wastes precious time when in a gunfight with your life in the balance.

clip_image006On the plus side, SAPs have a tendency to be slimmer and more easily concealed. Even .45 caliber SAPs can be fairly petite. One of my favorite .45 caliber carry SAPs is the Glock 36 with a magazine extender. This provides me with 7 rounds in the magazine and an 8th in the chamber. A second magazine gives me an additional 7 rounds “just in case”. While this has been my favorite, there are a number of other good choices for a concealed carry .45 and 9mm caliber SAPs as well.
clip_image008There is simply an explosion of sub-compact 9mm SAPs coming out on the market. One of the latest is the LC9 from Ruger – small, narrow and yet capable of shooting a 9mm cartridge and providing 7 rounds in the magazine and an 8th in the chamber.  This has become my preferred carry weapon.  Yet, the LC9 has a number of stiff competitors as well. Take your time, look over the field, read the reviews, view some of the youtube reviews (here is my RANGE REVIEW  and my BOX REVIEW for the Ruger LC9)  and then make your selection.

Caliber of your Personal Defense Weapon

Finally, there is the selection of the caliber of your weapon. We have talked about weapons that will shoot one of the following caliber rounds: .38 cal, .357 cal, 9mm or .45 cal. Any of these rounds will stop your attacker. By using defensive ammunition such as hollow-points or some of the new types of defensive ammunition, you can increase the “knock down” power of your weapon as well.  The Hornady “Critical Defense” round is what I have personally chosen for all my defensive weapons.  

I would also encourage you to find a friend or a gun dealer that will let you shoot various pistols so you can actually feel what we have discussed.  As I referred to in an earlier post, I recently went through this exercise with a woman who had taken on of my NRA Basic Pistol classes.   I met her and her husband at the range with a number of different choices for her:  A Glock 17, a Ruger LC9, a Springfield 1911 .45 ACP and a Tarus 856.   The one that felt best for her?   The Glock 17.  So now, she can start looking at some of the smaller Glocks as well and narrow in on the one that will best fit her and her carry options.

Take your time and make an informed decision.   The weapon you are choosing is the weapon you want to select to protect your life and the lives of your family as well.  It’s an important decision, no reason to rush.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Range Day!!!! Winter edition!

Time: 15:00 to 17:00
Temp: 17F
Wind-chill: 5F
Thoughts??: ARE YOU OUTTA YOUR FRICKIN’ MIND?!?!?!?!?!?

Well, it had been a couple of weeks since I’d been to the range. Temps here in Iowa in early January were in the upper 50s to low 60s – great for range work. But, something odd happened – winter arrived! Yep, lots of snow (6-8 inches), heavy winds in the 20+ mph, blowing, drifting – yep, winter.

Early in the week one of my former students called and said his wife was interested in purchasing a handgun and wanted to try some out – could I help them out? Really, he’s asking?? In class I typically have over a dozen different handguns available for touchy-feely stuff so, yeah, I could give a hand. Today was the day. Actually, I want to leave that experience as a separate post because the process of selecting a handgun is very important and I want to devote a fair amount of time to it. So, let’s talk about a winter range day.

IMG_20120121_145535 (Small) First I had to find the holes in the range to put the target stand in. A bit of work at the 7 yard line with a range brush found them under about 7 inches of snow. One nice thing about a chilly, breezy day – no other shooters to worry about.

So I put the stand in, and mounted 8 ea. 3x5 cards of the cardboard. I like using 3x5 cards – they’re cheap, fairly small and I can dedicate a couple of cards to each weapon I bring.  IMG_20120121_154116 (Small)Today, since the lady coming wanted to try a number of different handguns, I brought my .22/.45 Ruger, a Glock 17, a Springfield 1911, a Ruger LC9 and a Tarsus 856 .38 Special. I thought this would give her a number of different types of “feels” to see which she liked best.

So how can you take advantage of the weather in your training? Today was cold by most standards – IMG_20120121_152748 (Small) and it is certainly possible that you could encounter a threat in cold weather. How does your body react in cold weather? For me, I can ignore my feet and hands, I need a cap to feel comfortable and I can shed my coat for up to an hour. How do I know this? Years and years of winter camping and simply testing my limits.

You need to do this to – so you can better prepare for how your body reacts to different environments.  My guests were running late so I had nearly an hour on my own to roll through the different handguns I brought. The top two 3x5 cards were set aside for the .22/45. I brought my Tru-Glo site and noticed that it had moved radically so I removed it and continued my drills with iron sights only. Typically I will do random rounds from the compressed high-ready. I did no holster work today. I went through around 100 rounds.

Next was the Glock 17 and another 50 rounds. Same format as with the .22/45. During my entire range visit today, I did not wear gloves. I view that as worst case so that is how I usually practice.

The Glock was followed by the Ruger LC9. This has become my carry weapon – I really like it. It fits my hand nice, has great sights, has yet to have a failure and is very accurate. This took up another 50 rounds and another two 3x5 cards.

The Springfield 1911 followed with another 50 rounds and another two 3x5 cards. I went through a period with this weapon where I was having problems with the slide going fully forward after ejecting a round. I finally discovered it likes more lubrication on the slide than I typically would use. Since then, it runs like a top!

Finally, the Tarsus 856. This is a little snub-nosed, 2-inch barrel, 6-shot, magnesium pistol. It shoots a surprisingly tight group from 7-yards but it kicks like a mule! For women and men uncomfortable with malfunction drills, it is a solid choice for a carry weapon.

So there ya have it, my first hour on the range. As I finished up, I noticed that my Android had died (I use its camera a lot on the range) – the battery apparently drained by laying it in the open air on a cold the range bench. Heavy sigh, something to remember.

So how does this rambling pertain to you?? Spend a number of training days this winter on the range. Leave your gloves off, take off your coat – notice how your body reacts to the cold. Can you still focus? Can you load your weapon? Can you do speed reloads and tactical reloads? Can you draw in a timely fashion with winter gear on? Remember – threats can come at you any time of day or season, practice, learn and be prepared to win.

Friday, January 20, 2012

So – do I need some kind of training to carry a gun??

As one of our great American sages once said: “it depends on what the meaning of “training” is.

There are as many different kinds of shooting courses and there are instructors. I especially like the fierce looking guys with the “lion cut”, bald and dark wrap-around shooting glasses. I know some of those guys, and they are really good guys, but it is becoming so cliché I just can’t deal with it any more. Now I’m going bald, but it will be a few years. I spent enough time in the military that I simply can’t handle a “lion cut”. But I do love to teach shooting. So let’s detail some of the courses that are out there.

At the very lowest level, there is a simple ‘Firearms Safety” course. This is typically a 4-hour course used to meet the minimum requirements for a Concealed Carry Permit. They are usually about half firearm safety, introduction to handguns and a primer on basic shooting stance, grip and target acquisition. No shots are typically fired. The other half covers your local, state and federal firearm laws. People usually take these because they “want their permit”. I’ve taught a course like this for probably a couple hundred students over the past year. The course ends with the caution that the class in no way prepares them to actually use a firearm for personal defense and that they need to seek out additional training. I teach the 4-hour course simply because there is a demand for it.

Next up the ladder are the NRA courses, most of which we teach. They include Home Fire Arm Safety, Basic Pistol, Basic Rifle, Basic Shotgun, Personal Protection Inside the Home, Personal Protection Outside the Home and a number of courses for children under the “Eddie the Eagle” moniker. Your advantage in taking these classes is that the instructors have actually received instruction from an NRA accredited Training Counselor certified in each of these areas. As a student, this gives you some assurance the trainer didn’t just print up a bunch of business cards and set up shop. Also, their training material that is provided to the student is very good and can certainly provide solid refresher info on down the line.
All of them do a solid job of presenting the basics – safety, parts of the firearm, proper use and everything from an firing your first shot to a very complete and complex set of shooting drills.

Like many training companies, we have decided to offer two courses of our own design. They fit between the NRA Basic Pistol and a Tactical Shooting course such as Front Site. Courses like Front Site assure you they are for new shooters, yet the level of intensity is significantly higher than many new shooters care to step into. To fill this gap, we have created a “Defensive Pistol I” and a “Defensive Pistol II” course. DPI provides a short recap of firearms in general and firearm safety. We then move on to dry-fire training, from the compressed high-ready, to extension, target acquisition, target engagement and a return to a compressed hi-ready. Mixed in here is also speed reloads, tactical reloads and the basic mechanics of clearing malfunctions. Next the same dry-fire drills are repeated but a holster draw is integrated. There is no use of a concealment garment in DPI. The range work follows, with the same drills repeated in a live-fire environment beginning from the compressed high-ready and then moving to a holster draw. At the end of this course, the new shooter has a solid set of drills to practice, a good level of familiarity with “life on the range” and something to practice when they go to the range on their own.

Defensive Pistol II begins where DPI ended; expanding on the drills, working on malfunctions and integrating concealed carry. It is 20% Classroom and 80% range work.
And that is where we stop. There are excellent course available to take the shooter to a more tactical level. However, there are NOT many that prepare them for it – we view that as our purpose.

So, circling all the way back to the initial question, do I need some kind of training to carry a gun, the answer is obviously “Yes!”. This is the path e.IA.f.t. offers, we provide you the knowledge to safely and effectively carry your handgun. There are literally dozen of other training companies that offer their own blend of course work. Check us all out, determine where you are in your skill level and then take a class that will bump you up a level. Take something each and every year to make you a better shooter. And, along the way . . . .
Enjoy the journey.                                                      

You are a TARGET!!

Make no mistake, when you walk down a street, across a parking lot, take out the trash or drop your kids off at school – you are a target. Obviously the other ingredient to make this fact a problem for you is some asshole out there looking for a soft target – you. You may go your entire life and never have these two elements meet. Or, it may happen tonight when you take the garbage out. So how do you reduce the threat in the event these two elements do, indeed, join? It’s called “Situational Awareness”. Let’s explore what that means for just a bit.

The individual that really introduced America to modern-day gun fighting is LtCol. Jeff Cooper. In the mid-70s he started the American Pistol Institute to teach his skills to military, law enforcement and civilian shooters. This grew into the world famous “Gunsite Training Center”. One of his most famous contributions to shooters is the “Cooper Color Code”. Do some more reading on your own about this, but I will do a short break down here:

Condition White: You are unaware and unprepared. Here the only thing that will save you is plain dumb luck.

Condition Yellow: You are Relaxed and Alert. There is no specific threat that is obvious, but you are scanning your surroundings, continually updating your “Situational Awareness” level.

Condition Orange: You have identified a specific threat. Your “gut” tell you something is off. It may be an individual or individuals that seem to be paying undo attention to you. You may notice you are being followed either while you are walking or driving. You begin to remind yourself where your weapons is, how to access it, begin evaluation exit routes, types of cover.

Condition Red: You fight. All your “lines” have been crossed, you believe that you are in “mortal danger” – if you don’t fight, you will die. It is an E.T. – an Existential Threat.
I have adopted this color code for a target – with YOU in the middle. It looks like this:

Distant Threat - +100 Feet
You’re aware, you identify a possible threat. It’s time to move towards safety, evaluate possible scenarios and your probable action.

Near Threat - +50 Feet
The probable threat has identified you as a target. It becomes more obvious that they are moving towards you. Their manner is more aggressive. Their gaze is more intense. You prepare for flight or engagement.

Immediate Threat - +30 Feet
You are an obvious target. Your hand is on your weapon. Loudly announce you are armed and you will engage them if necessary. Draw and present when they within 25 Feet. (note: at this distance you have less than 2 seconds to draw and acquire the threat) Engage if required.

Existential Threat - 5 Feet or Less
This is an immediate threat that has given you no warning. It came from around a corner, was waiting for you when you opened your door. It completely bypasses all preceding levels.

Immediately cover your face and head with your forearms. Move into attacker. Pivot your strong-side away. Take your weak-side arm and secure your attacker’s arm that is nearest to your weapon. Draw weapon, index and engage.

From a practical point of view, a person simply can not maintain “Condition Orange” – the level of awareness displayed at the “Immediate Threat” ring for a long period of time. The reality is that you’re NOT under direct threat for most of your life. Not every one is your enemy – yet they may be. Perhaps General Mattis says it best: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." (Check out famous “Mattisisms” just for fun.) Conversely, if you simply plug in your iPod ear buds and walk on down a crowded street you simply scream “pick me, pick me”.

Condition Yellow – that used in the “Near Threat” region of your target - is where I would encourage you to work towards. At this level you are not paranoid, not amped up, not on edge for the whole day, you are simply more aware of your surroundings, the people around you and the vehicles in front and behind you. This is also a great time to “game play”. What would you do, right now, if you identified a threat? Where would you go? What cover is available? What are your escape routes? Can you get to your weapon? It’s the perfect time to work on your preparedness while not working yourself into a state of mental exhaustion.

One other thing to notice about the “target” – it covers a full 360 degrees. An attack on you can come from any direction. Get used to looking all around you. Use your car’s mirrors, use reflections in windows, swivel your head around, don’t take the same routes, don’t keep the exact time table (you ALWAYS take the trash out each morning at 6:30 AM). Change things up, take different routes home, walk a different path. I know this is all common sense. The trick is to – CHANGE YOUR LIFE STYLE. Be proactive. Refuse to be a target each and every day of your life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Choosing a range . . .

How does a new shooter go about finding a place to shoot? In my younger days, I could simply go into my back yard or a near-by wood lot and blast away. Those days are long since gone. So how do you do it?

Well, there is undoubtedly a local shooting community – it might just take a little digging to find it. One great resource are your local police officers. Many shoot competitively to sharpen their work-day shooting skills and they do this at a local range. Gun stores, local clubs like the Izaac Walton League or other conservation groups can point you in the right direction as well. Your shooting instructor (assuming you have taken class recently) will certainly have a location set aside for their class that many times will offer memberships as well.

One resource I am typically leery of is un-managed public shooting ranges. We have a couple of these in my area and they can be a disquieting experience. Not everyone obeys the 4 rules of gun safety. Not everyone goes to the range sober. Not everyone is trustworthy. While I have made very limited use of a range near one of my course locations, I don’t make a habit of it.

What can you expect from a local shooting club? My experience has been that there are lots of friendly people there, all interested in the same sport you are. They folks are a great resource. Most will be willing to lend a hand if you need it, answer questions if you have them and – in many cases – give you the opportunity to try their weapons if you have a mind to.

Managed ranges will typically have a clear set of Range Rules that you will be expected to know. Many times these will be gone over with you either individually or as a group at the beginning of the shooting season by the range’s RSO (Range Safety Officer). Many of these types of ranges are secured requiring either a pin number, lock combination or swipe card to gain entry. These are all good things. It clearly shows the club takes its responsibilities seriously and it provides you a level of comfort that shooters are all starting out with the came clear view the range’s rules and expectations.

Prices will very and dues are usually a two-tiered structure, first for club membership with an additional fee being required as a “range fee”. Shooting ranges require constant attention, supervision and observation. Not to mention additional costs for target stands, steel targets, berm maintenance – all of which make the shooting sports a bit more expensive. I would expect most club fees would be from $50 to $100 per year with and additional $20+ for a range fee. It is also not unusual for additional fees to be required if you decide to enter different shooting competitions (on a per competition basis) at the range as well.

The biggest plus for you joining a recognized shooting club in your area is simply your access to other shooters. I learn each and every time I shoot with a new partner. And they learn from me as well. Clubs bring us all together. Find a club, join and enjoy, a new competitive season is just around the corner!!

Range day – what to bring, what to bring . . . . .

You need to schedule range days, as many as possible, every month – including winter. Then, you need to keep the schedule – rain, shine, sunny, cloudy, calm, windy, hot, cold or butt-assed cold, dry, wet, rain, snow, ice. The guy/gal that picks you as a target, that intends to rob you, beat you, kill you will not wait for a gorgeous summer day (ok, he/she might) so your range time needs to cover all the bases. Once scheduled, what do you bring? I’m going to split this up into three sections – Clothing and your Range Bag and Miscellaneous stuff.
  • Dress for the weather – although I routinely recommend long pants that are a loose fit rather than shorts. If it’s cold – a solid layering system that allows you to shed some clothing if your range work heats you up. But, in general, here’s the list:
  • Hat (I prefer a baseball cap so the bill covers my face over my shooting glasses)
  • Comfortable shirt
  • Comfortable pants
  • Sturdy shoes and hiking socks (once had a lady show up in January wearing high-heel boots)
  • Bandana
  • Rain gear – rain pants and coat, not a poncho (you shoot, regardless if it’s pouring or not)
  • You may want knee pads depending on the drills you intend on running.
  • Strong side holster
  • Minimum of two magazine holders or speed-loader holders
  • Sturdy pistol belt
  • Shooting gloves if your drills call for them
Range Bag;
  • Your weapon (no, really, double check!!!)
  • Minimum of 3 magazines or speed loaders – more is better
  • Ammunition for your drills (also, really, double check!!!)
  • Hearing protection
  • Eye protection
  • A small set of tools
  • Cleaning Kit
  • Stapler with extra staples
  • First Aide Kit – primarily for cuts and nicks
  • Note book for shooting notes on your drills
  • Targets specific to any drills that you may need
  • Timer if needed for your drills
  • Sun screen (you burn, sunny or cloudy)
  • Chap stick
  • Something to eat (jerky, food bars – I usually skip the sandwiches)
  • Something to drink (water, soda, juice – more than you think you should bring)
  • Sweat towel – a standard hand towel, I always carry an OD towel – shooting, hiking, canoeing or just riding in my Jeep
Finally, develop a plan. Your first trips, I would recommend doing everything from the compressed high-ready. Firm grip on your weapon, your weapon held center chest with the barrel parallel to the ground. I prefer a “modified weaver” stance – feet shoulder width apart, strong side foot back about one foot’s length from the weak side foot. The drills are limited to extension and release of safety (if needed), target acquisition, target engagement with a random number of rounds (1 to 3), engaging the safety (again if needed) and bringing your weapon back to a compressed high-ready.

Your plan should include a number of different drills ( see http://pistol-training.com for some ideas) and also the inclusion of snap-caps to simulate weapon malfunctions.
Limit your time to an hour. After an hour people naturally loose their ability to focus and concentrate. Speed is NOT your goal – being smooth and accurate is. Do each step – extension, safety release, target acquisition, target engagement, engaging the safety, returning to the compressed high-ready – PERFECTLY. Slow down if you are sloppy. Speed up until you get sloppy. You are training muscle memory during these sessions so when the fellow with the gun, knife, ax, machete is getting ready to send you to your Maker, you can change the situation without having to think through the steps. Speed comes with time as do holster draws. For now, for your first few trips, lets work on these basics first; we’ll talk about the rest later.

A look at what’s in my bag:
Range Bag  Tool KitFirst Aide Kit Cleaning Kit Eye protection Hearing ProtectionStapler

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trust NO ONE!!!!!

Trusting a fellow shooter can get your hurt – or dead. My personal example. A very good friend of mine had a .45 1911 worked on quite some time back. He was very happy with the job and was anxious to show me. It was a defensive weapon that he kept on an upper bookshelf in his den. He reached for it, dropped the magazine and went to hand it to me. I asked him to check the chamber. “Don’t worry; there isn’t a round in the chamber.” I acknowledged he was probably right, I just asked him to humor me. And he did – imagine his surprise as a cartridge was ejected as he racked the slide. Was I angry? Nope. While it’s fully his responsibility to know the state of his weapon and to only hand it to me when he was sure it was safe (and he was sure), it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to know that each and every weapon handed to me is safe – PERIOD. Do not depend on someone else to save you, to protect you or to prevent you from being harmed – it is YOUR JOB to do that and no one else’s.

In my classes, I display over a dozen firearms. Double and single action revolvers, .22 cal, 9mm and .45 cal semi-automatic pistols and even a 6mm airsoft pistol. The images below show you how I present them to the students. The action is open, the cylinder open, the loading gate open and all magazines out. They stay this way throughout the entire course and any time a firearm is passed from me to a student or from one student to another, the chamber and the magazine are double checked before the exchange happens. This, IMNSHO, should be done in all firearm classes – period. If it’s not – remember your safety is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Don’t surrender your safety to anyone – check each and every firearm to make sure the magazine is out, the chamber is empty, the cylinder is open or the loading gate is open.

Remember, help is not coming, you are not going to be saved, you are responsible for your own survival and safety – period – YOU.
IMG_20120117_153323 (Small)
IMG_20120117_153350 (Small) IMG_20120117_153553 (Small)
IMG_20120117_153632 (Small) IMG_20120117_153704 (Small) IMG_20120117_153825 (Small)

From the beginning

So, you’ve decided to take a training course – what are the basics you should know? Well, let’s start with “safety first”. The NRA has their three basic rules:

1: Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
2: Never load your firearm until you are ready to use it.
3: Keep your finger OFF THE TRIGGER until you are on target.

A forth is typically added:

4: Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

The word “Always” means exactly that – ALWAYS, with out fail, without exception. If you follow this single rule, regardless of anything else, no one can get hurt.

The word “Never” means exactly that – NEVER, without fail, without exception. If you follow this single rule the possibility of hurting someone during cleaning or dry fire or working behind the firing line on a range evaporates.

The words “OFF THE TRIGGER” means totally, fully and completely outside the trigger guard until you are on target – a target that you have fully identified. If you follow these words, you can be assured you shoot only that which you intend to shoot – and nothing else.

Finally, the forth set of words “Be sure” means exactly that – be positive, without doubt, fully aware of what you are about to shoot AND what will you hit if you miss or if your round fully penetrates your target and exits merrily onward destroying all it its path.

This is the beginning. This is the starting point. The weapon in your hand, the device that is designed to kill things, to end lives, to permanently interrupt the breathing cycle will do it’s job with unerring effectiveness. It is YOUR DUTY and RESPONSIBILITY to exercise your right to carry and use this weapon safely.

Always – Never – OFF THE TRIGGER – Be sure . . . . . . these are words to live by as your enter your shooting career.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Creating a society of victims

I couldn’t work up a head of steam about the Brady Campaign’s candle light vigil against gun violence. I long ago wrote them off as nut-jobs undeserving of my attention. However, their goal is instructive. For all their words about eliminating guns and there-by reducing the number of gun-violence victims, their result is really just the opposite – they create victims.
I’ve been chewing on this for years and have shared my thoughts with friends. Many times I see the “knowing nod” that usually means I’m just a bit “out there” on this whole “creating victims” deal. So, I thought I would share this with you folks and see where you come down on the issue. 

A little history – I am officially becoming a C.O.G. – a Crotchety Old Guy. I have no problem with that, been one all my life. But it does give me a longer period of time to view this issue.
  Violence is simply part of life. In my youth my protagonist was a fellow by the name of Jack – 5th-6thth grade playground was a bitch for me, usually because of him. He was the typical bully using physical violence to get what he wanted. However, at that time you still had the opportunity to “work things out” – usually on the playground, sometimes after school. But, we had the freedom to confront and resolve the issue. For me and Jack it ended the day he pounded on me and I bit the top of his knuckle off. I stood my ground, fought back and ended my victim hood. Jack’s end came years later with him on his knees, a .45 at the back of his head and the disappearance of his face. It wasn’t surprising to anyone who knew Jack. 

The lesson I learned on the playground in 1961-1962 was that you needed to defend yourself – that it was not OK to be hammered on and that I didn’t need to depend on anyone else to save me, I was responsible for me. 

Fast forward to 1970 and Vietnam. War is a terrific place to learn all about violence. On the battlefield it is painfully obvious that violence does, indeed, settle issues and that victims – those who see themselves as victims – die. 

As a country, with the end of Vietnam, we then entered this very weird, anti-violence at any cost time period that today has solidified into a society so “violence adverse” that a child who points a piece of pizza like a gun is suspended from school. Along the way my own son went through the whole bully thing. His was during 3rd grade with a particular fellow pounding on him on a regular basis. Discussions with the teachers and principle had no affect. Our school had (and still does have) a policy of both kids being equally at fault so the victim and attacker have equal punishments. This went on for a month while I tried to be “civilized”. Nothing. Finally I had a discussion with his teacher and the principal. My son had a problem and he was going to fix it. I shared directly that the next time he was attacked he would simply pound the young fellow into the ground and take his suspension. And, that’s how it went down. But, he learned he didn’t need to be a victim in his own life. And, he learned an even more valuable  lesson – he was ultimately responsible for his own defense, period. Not the teachers, not the principal, not his parents – HE was responsible. 

Let’s fast-forward to today and the most egregious example I can think of where young men and women were taught that violence was bad and to be avoided at all costs. This past summer in Norway, on the small island of Utoeya, a gunman dressed as a policeman came ashore and called the campers together. These were kids in their mid-teens. After they surrounded him he pulled an automatic weapon and, over the next hour, shot 80 kids to death. Their immediate response was to run. One man, surrounded by 50+ kids had a field day hunting them. My point here is that they did what they were conditioned to do – to flee, hide and hope. What if these same kids had been taught to respond to stop violence, not flee it. Would some have died – certainly. But, would this animal have had an hour hunt 80 of them down and kill them?? No. 

Of course, we have our own example of this – Columbine High School in Colorado. Two animals had as much time as they wanted to roam the school corridors and classrooms, taking time in one case to bend down and talk to a girl hiding under her desk to ask if she truly believed in Jesus before he shot her to death. The children of 1999 reacted as trained by today’s compassionate society and acted like lowly cattle being herded into their classrooms for slaughter. We are again presented with the possibility that if these students been taught to be responsible for their own safety, taught to fight violence brought against them and taught that help is not coming – the outcome would have been much less tragic.
Today you listen to the caterwauls of the anti-gun crowd talking about the need to eliminate all guns in the hope that gun violence will stop. They have learned nothing. What if each and every violent criminal had to stop and wonder if the cute little blonde he was about to attack was packing a .45 in her handbag? What if every robber walking into a local gas station/market had to wonder if the clerk or the other customers were armed? What if every burglar breaking down a door or a window had to wonder if they would be met with a shotgun blast? 

When you meet violence with overwhelming violence – it ends. When you meet violence with a victim’s mindset, you’re dead. Simple as that. 

We need to be teaching our children to stop violence - not wait for it to stop. Soon. Today. Now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Bookshelf

The purpose of e.IA.f.t. is – in the words of the NRA – is to provide you with the “knowledge, skills and attitude” to safely handle your firearm, to protect yourself, your family and those around you and to survive.

Knowledge is the understanding of your environment and the tools at hand. A skill set can only be learned by doing – whether it be shooting, canoeing, wilderness survival, fire building – you have to be able to successfully perform these skills in a consistent manner. And a learner must always have an open attitude – to learn from everything - their friends, instructors, experiences and various authors.

What I have listed on “The Bookshelf” are the books I have acquired and read over the years that pertain to five primary areas: Canoeing, Hiking, National Parks, Shooting and Survival.

Personal defense covers quite a bit or ground – in covers more than your skill with a firearm. You need to survive the encounter; you may need to survive in a much more primitive environment for an undetermined length of time. This may be due to natural events (hurricanes, tornados, windstorms, etc) or it may be due to a break down in our society. Either way, personal defense can easily include a survival element much broader than putting down an immediate physical threat.

Obviously, many defensive situations can be emulated on a shooting range. However, past that, other skills that can come in handy are better suited for wilderness practice. Some examples would be navigation, fire building, building and using different types of shelter, knot tying, determining what should be in your backpack, water purification, wilderness hygiene, the proper way to poop in the woods – to name just a few. Over the past 40 years I have traveled the country learning and using these skills, sharing them with folks and simply having a lot of fun. My two most enjoyable pastimes are canoeing and hiking. And, my two favorite areas are Glacier National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) between Minnesota and Canada. There are many, many other places I have enjoyed, yet these two are at the top of my list. My reading material reflect things I have focused on learning. My treks, canoe trips and weekend overnights have been spent practicing what I have learned.

I hope you find as much value in these books and their authors as I have. If you have some offerings to add, please, pass them on and I will include them.


The Bookshelf